When thinking of Antalya, the first thing that comes to mind are probably the stunning blue-flag beaches that attract millions of visitors every year. With so many beautiful, white-sand beaches, it’s no wonder Antalya is one of the most popular summer destinations in Europe. However, did you know about Antalya’s surrounding mountains, gorgeous canyons, and rolling meadows? Or about some of the oldest remnants of Anatolian civilization? Well, in that case, you’ll surely be intrigued by this article. Keep reading to find out which are some of the most fascinating hidden gems in Antalya!
Located in an unfrequented village on the south coast of Antalya, Çıralı is one of the last remaining beaches in Antalya that still haven’t been spoiled by mass tourism. It’s one of those places that feel remote without being hard to get to. The main reason for this is that the local authorities saw the natural beauty of the place and decided to turn it into a conservation area. This means things are likely to remain as they are for a long time and the pebble-sand beaches and the surrounding mountains will remain pristine and unfrequented for years to come. But that’s not all- it gets better. Çıralı is a conservation area for a reason; it’s one of the best snorkeling/diving spots not only in Antalya but in the whole country too.
See how traditional houses look like
Photo by Dosseman CC by SA 4.0
Most people visit Antalya for its gorgeous beaches. Others for the beautiful mountains and green canyons. However, very few people indulge in cultural activities. That’s why places like this interesting small museum remain unfrequented and not-well-known. If you’re one of those tourists that like to learn about the place they’re traveling to, you will love the İnan Kıraç Kaleiçi Müzesi. Why? Because it gives you a glimpse of how old traditional houses used to look like in the Antalya region. The museum was opened in the 1990s’ by the Kıraç family. The main goal was to preserve and showcase some of the most important elements of local culture.
See the remnants of an old port capital
If you know your history, you’ve probably heard about the ancient city of Patara; a port city that was one of the most important trade cities of its time. Unfortunately, the city has been swallowed by the mists of time and all that’s left of Patara today are some old ruins with the Patara Antique Theater being the best-preserved one. You might not think Antalya has such cultural hidden gems but this 1,900-years-old amphitheater is one of Turkey’s most impressive ancient sights. However, it seems like most tourists don’t know about this place despite the fact that it’s not too far from one of the most popular beaches in Antalya, Patara beach.
Visit the most overlooked mosque in town
Built in the 18th century, the Tekeli Mehmet Pasha Mosque has been living in the shadow of the Murat Pasha Mosque that’s a lot more popular among tourists. Not too many travelers in Antalya visit the local mosques but even the once that do, visit the much more famous Murat Pasha Mosque. However, the Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque is just as beautiful. It’s also actually one of the most important mosques in the Antalya region. On the outside, it looks like an average mosque. Perhaps that’s the main reason why most people just pass by it without going in. However, once you go inside, you will be impressed and surprised by the beautiful interior filled with tiled panels decorated with verses from the Koran in Taliq script.
Learn about Antalya’s marine life
The Deniz Biyolojisi Muzesi is a very interesting museum that’s been around since 2014. The museum is relatively new and this is probably the main reason why most tourists don’t know about it. This maritime museum exhibits information for over 500 species that inhabit the seas of Turkey and teaches visitors a lot of useful information about the local marine biological diversity, with emphasis on the endangered species. The goal of the museum is to cultivate the peoples’ interest in sea life and with this, to encourage them to help in preserving the marine life that has been living in the seas of Turkey for thousands of years. It’s a very informative and (still) relatively unfrequented museum and one that’s certainly worthy of your time.
Wander off the beaten path at Çığlıkara
Many tourists that visit this region aren’t aware that there’s hidden natural paradise only a short drive away from Antalya. The Çığlıkara Nature Reserve has been a protected area mostly because it’s the perfect environment for the endangered cedar tree. However, Çığlıkara is also home to over 400 other plant species and it also has a diverse fauna, including squirrels, bores, foxes, badgers, and even a small population of jackals but you should be safe as long as you keep to the marked paths and stay near the camping sites. There’s no reason to get-off-the-beaten-track because the place is already unfrequented. So, don’t expect a lot of other visitors to be around.
Natural ponds in the middle of the sea are extremely rare and we know just how quickly they can turn into tourist attractions. That’s why it’s such a surprise that the natural ponds of Koru in Gazipasa still aren’t discovered by most tourists! The main reasons for this are probably the fact that Antalya has a lot of stunning beaches to choose from. Additionally, the Gazipasa area is still developing because it was never very touristy despite its many natural beauties. I call these places rough diamonds and personally, I like visiting them while the area is still not brimming with tourist facilities. If you’re like me, then you better hurry up and visit this beautiful beach. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes the next big thing in Turkey!
Tucked away in the Taurus mountains lies one of Antalya’s best secrets and one Turkey’s most spectacular waterfalls. The reason why this place is still not under a constant tourist siege is that it’s not easy to reach. The two options you have are either to rent a jeep or walk a 20-kilometers-long trail leading to the waterfalls. The Uçansu Waterfalls consists of upper and lower waterfalls.
The latter can be reached by road and gets a lot more visitors. However, if you want to go to the upper falls, you have to take a 2-hour walk up the trail. It will be exhausting but totally worth it. At the top of the waterfall, you will find a lake created by melting snow that springs out through the rocky terrain, falling down into the Uçansu creek, creating a beautiful waterfall. The sight is spectacular!
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Discover Turkey’s sunken city
As you could guess from the title, the ancient city of Simena surely will be the next great destination in Turkey. It’s only a matter of time before more tourists discover Turkey’s ancient sunken city. The city of Simena was the most famous port city in the Roman empire. It was founded in the 4th century B.C. and ruined by a major earthquake in the 2nd century A.D.
Today, a large portion of the city is underwater but there are still some surprisingly well-preserved remnants from the city’s most glorious days, including a necropolis of rock tombs, Lycian inscriptions, and the ruins of old public baths gifted to emperor Titus by the people and council of Aperlai. The site was closed for visitors for over 30 years but was declared as open at the end of 2017. That’s the main reason why most people still don’t know about this hidden gem on the Antalya Coast. If I was you, I’d visit Simena as soon as I can before the tourist hordes find out about it!
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Even though the Oymapinar Lake is man-made, its emerald green colors make it the favorite getaway spot for locals, especially during the summer months when the Antalya is under a constant tourist siege. Located only 20 kilometers away from the coast, this place is a hidden oasis that will take you to a new, green dimension.
The lake is completely surrounded by lush forests and its emerald color makes the whole landscape even more dramatic. No wonder locals refer to this area as the “Green Canyon”. Many people come here to get some peace and quiet away from Antalya’s busy streets but there are also a lot of activities adventurists can indulge in, like swimming, diving, birdwatching and even canoeing through the gorges of Mahavgat River.
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Don’t go here if you’re afraid of heights
It’s surprising how so many people miss out on this wonder of nature located only 15 kilometers away from Antalya. Many locals call Guver Canyon “The Grand Canyon of Turkey”. This might be a slight over-exaggeration, but this place is still definitely worth visiting. The most fascinating sight in the canyon is the 2-kilometers-long and 150-meters-deep gorge which is a bit difficult to find because it’s hidden by the surrounding vegetation and there are multiple paths that lead to it but only a few of them are marked properly.
As you’re taking a long walk in the forest, you’ll start feeling like you’re lost in an endless stretch of greenery when a giant hole that separates the forest in half appears out of nowhere! It’s one of the most spectacular views and fortunately, (still) one of the most peaceful and least frequented places in the Antalya region.
Visit a surprisingly unfrequented cave
Located near a small, forgotten village with the same name, Tilkiler Cave is one of the most spectacular but still not-so-popular caves not only in the Antalya region but in the whole country too. Interestingly, this cave which is almost 7 kilometers long and goes as low as 160 meters below the ground, was discovered by accident in 1976 during the construction of a local dam. It’s the second-longest cave in Turkey and one of the world’s largest caves formed in Miocene Conglomerate made up of limestone clasts in a Carbonate matrix.
As such, it’s very important for science and several studies have been conducted in the cave. However, Tilkiler Cave never established itself as a famous tourist attraction. Even today, more than 40 years after it’s been discovered, it still is one of Antalya’s best-kept secrets.
Climb up a to castle atop a steep rock
The Alara Castle is one of the most-overlooked historic sites in Antalya. The castle is one of the most marvelous architecture samples of the 11th century that’s still standing. The castle was an outpost of the Kingdom of Cilicia and because of its location, it was extremely difficult to conquer. In fact, it remained one of the last places in Antalya that the Seljuks couldn’t take control of but the lord of the castle decided to surrender after the Seljuks too complete control of the region. The only way to climb up to the castle is the 180 steep stairs and the castle has a well-preserved citadel inside the walls. The castle went under restoration in 2011 and reopened for the public but most tourists still seem to be unaware of this remote, fascinating castle…
Explore a 2000-years-old ancient site
If you like visiting ancient cities and exploring old ruins without many tourists around, you will surely love the ancient city of Lybre. We know little about these ancient ruins and the identification of this ancient city raises some serious doubts among different historians. Some of them claim that this was the ancient city of Seleukia while others claim that these ruins don’t belong to Seleukia but that this was the city of Lybre but they both agree on one thing.
These ruins are at least 2000 years old, making them one of the oldest surviving ruins in the whole region. The best part about visiting these ancient ruins is that there’s no entrance fee. Also, if you come early enough, you’ll probably have the whole place for yourself.
Visit ancient ruins that have seen better days
If you like old ancient ruins, there sure are a lot of places for you to visit in the Antalya region but only a few as unfrequented as the State Agora in Manavgat. For some reason, not a lot of people know about this ancient Agora; there isn’t much information about it on the internet, and it’s not even on most tour operators’ lists.
Hence, the only tourists you’ll find here are ones who accidentally discover the site while trying to find the beach. Just like its name suggests, this Agora wasn’t a typical ancient market; it was a forum open to all people in the city who want to contribute to all current political discussions. It’s another fascinating ancient site of Antalya which is more than 2,000 years old and you’ll surely love it if you like wandering around the old, forgotten ruins and imagining how the area looked like during its glory days…
Helpful resources for traveling to Antalya
For the cheapest flights to Turkey, check out Qatar Airways’s Discover the World at a low price program.
For the best travel insurance packages for traveling in Turkey, I recommend World Nomads.
If you’re looking for some great tours in the Antalya region, check out these amazing Insight Vacation’s deals.
The best way to discover hidden gems in Antalya is by renting a car. If this is something you plan to do, use this special offer to save 15% on all car rentals in Turkey.
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Last but not least, don’t forget to obtain a Turkish visa before the trip. For this purpose, my go-to choice is always Ivisa. Their customer service is impeccable and the whole process is smooth and very quick.
Did you like this list of hidden gems in Antalya? Which one was your favorite? Do you know of some other places in Antalya off the beaten track we didn’t mention here? Let us know in the comments!
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